Fri, May 18, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Sri Lankan ex-general to be released, his wife says

AFP, Colombo

Sri Lankan soldiers march during a Victory Day parade rehearsal in Colombo yesterday. The military parade commemorates the third anniversary of the defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009, ending a 37-year-long separatist conflict.

Photo: AFP

Sri Lanka’s president has promised to free jailed former army chief Sarath Fonseka unconditionally and at the earliest opportunity, the ex-general’s wife said yesterday.

Anoma Fonseka said she met Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse on Wednesday and that he assured her that her husband would be freed as soon as possible.

“I was promised that my husband will be cleared of all charges and released unconditionally,” she said.

There was no comment from Rajapakse’s office, but an official confirmed on Wednesday that the retired four-star general, who unsuccessfully challenged Rajapakse in Sri Lanka’s 2010 elections, would be released “within days.”

Fonseka fell out with the government over who should take credit for winning the separatist war against the Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009. He challenged Rajapakse after quitting the army.

Two weeks after his election defeat, Fonseka was detained on a charge of corruption relating to military procurements. He was then sentenced to 30 months in prison in September 2010.

Earlier on Wednesday, Rajapakse met members of Fonseka’s Democratic National Alliance (DNA) party to discuss the terms of his release, DNA legislator Tiran Alles said.

The moves come ahead of talks later this week between Sri Lanka’s foreign minister G. L. Peiris and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Washington.

The US has been critical of Sri Lanka’s rights record during the final stages of the civil war, which ended with victory for government forces in May 2009. Washington has repeatedly urged Colombo to release Fonseka.

In November, Fonseka was sentenced to three more years in jail for saying that Tiger rebels who surrendered had been killed on the orders of the president’s brother Gotabhaya Rajapakse, who is defense secretary.

Fonseka has also angered the government by saying he would testify before any international tribunal probing possible war crimes charges after the UN said thousands of civilians were killed in the last months of fighting.

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